We are all thought-leaders at something. Yes, I know it’s a bit of a buzz word, but it’s still true. If you are a corporate leader, you are also a thought-leader on your areas of expertise in the business. If you are a small business owner, you are a thought-leader in your industry and/or community. If you are a solo entrepreneur, you are most definitely a thought-leader. In fact, a good portion of the clients we serve at Root + River are solo coaches and consultants with thought-leadership as a business model.
Regardless of which bucket you might fit best in, there are a number of ways you can inadvertently hurt your brand as a thought-leader.
Here are five to consider:
- Poor Visuals. This is rampant in thought-leadership – especially with solo brands. Just take a scan through Twitter headers and web sites and you will see a torrent of bad design, stock photos, low resolution graphics. Just to name a few! How does this happen? It’s an ego blindspot. Many people believe their expertise is enough to trigger attraction and how they look doesn’t matter. But poor visuals instantly trigger resistance and suspicion – causing you to immediately fail what we call the Brand Test.
- Split Lives. Many of us who started our careers in the 20th century adopted the practice of living split lives. We had a work version of us and a home version of us. While this practice may have been a necessity in the industrial age, it is a brand diluter in the Human Age that we are in now. By building your brand around a construct rather than your true self, you are maintaining a movie set rather than inviting people to your real story – which is much more interesting!
- Mis-Use of Social. Like the community pool, gyms and other ways of life, social media has its own set of rules. In attempt to get attention, earn business and other wise stand out, many thought leaders hurt their brands by repeatedly breaking these rules. Examples: over-promoting your offerings, pitching strangers with direct messages, canned content, poor visuals (see #1). All of these are a steady erosion of your credibility and believability.
- Being a Cliche Machine. If you don’t know what I mean, follow this guy on Twitter. Or use this handy tool to listen to yourself as you have conversations and give presentations. The use of cliches, buzzwords, acronyms is a blend of insecurity and efficiency. When are you are not confident in your original ideas, your mind will trigger you to fill in the blank with a known term in order to be accepted. We all do this now and again, but when you do it repeatedly, you turn your brand from thought-leader to karaoke singer.
- Unresolved Emotional Wounds. We often say at Root + River, we don’t actually work on your brand. We work on you … and you work on your brand. This is because who we are as a human has a huge influence on how we are perceived as a brand. Our brands essentially become projections of our beliefs, habits, world views – and, yes, our emotional wounds. Untreated emotional trauma can create a fog of delusion or despair that erodes your confidence and self-worth.
This list is reflective of what we call “Intrinsic Branding” – the inner work necessary to create a vibrant, awake brand. For business owners and leaders, this inner work includes the culture, customer experience, innovation, differentiation. When you are striving to be a thought-leader, this inner work means working on you – inside and out.